Congratulations on your admission! 

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Welcome to college life!

This might be your first time living away from home. You might ask yourself, "How can I be financially independent of my parents and live within a budget while studying and enjoying college life?"

Even if you receive financial support from your family, you'll need to be a good manager of your money.

Start with these questions:

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  • Who's paying for my college and how?

  • What expenses should I expect?

Talk Ahead

Before the start of each academic year, have a discussion with your family about who will pay for college tuition and fees:

  • Will your family will take charge?

  • Will you need to rely on financial aid, apply for jobs, or a mix of these options?

Anticipate Your Expenses

Keep these college-related expenses on your radar:

  • Tuition and fees

  • Insurance (health insurance, car insurance, etc.)

  • Textbooks and school supplies

  • Room and board

  • Transportation

  • Personal expenses (clothing, entertainment, social life, etc.)

Having a healthy grasp of helpful in terms of knowing what kind of lifestyle you can really afford to live in college.

--Kyle Moore, a certified financial planner in St. Paul, Minnesota


Many college websites list their COA (cost of attending). What are some additional expenses you might need to add to that list?

Make A Budget

Figure out how much money flows in and out. 

  • Evaluate your financial situation

  • Differentiate “needs” vs “wants”

  • List monthly expenses

  • Determine the average monthly costs for each category

  • Make a reasonable budget and stick to it

You can follow a percentage-based budget like the 50/30/20 rule:

  • 50% of your income on necessities like housing and food

  • 30% on discretionary personal spending like entertainment

  • 20% on financial goals like saving

If you find you need to tighten your budget even more, you can try 70/15/15 for needs, wants, and goals.

Track Your Expenses

Track and manage your spending to simplify your budget and reduce the risk of human error. Here are a few budgeting tools that will help you along the way:

  • Microsoft Excel

  • Mint

  • Monefy

  • Nerdwallet

Look For More Money

  • Check out the scholarship search board of your school and the Best College Financial Aid Resources. Submit an application for scholarships, prizes, and bursaries. Many scholarships don’t receive a large number of applications, so it's worth the effort to apply.

  • If your schedule allows you enough free time, take on a part-time job for extra income (e.g., resident advisor, research assistant, retail staff). There are plenty of money-making opportunities to be found online (eg., online tutor, freelance writer, web developer).

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Working on campus can be a great opportunity for students to understand what a college is and how it works…Every college out there runs a small city within their realm, so your interests can be met in so many different ways.

--Ashley Bianchi, director of financial aid at Williams College

Tips For Saving Money In College

  • Buy or rent used textbooks (from former students on Craigslist or Facebook groups)

  • Take advantage of campus resources and events

  • Hunt for a room early, live off-campus, get a roommate, and use price-comparing tools

  • Look for affordable student cell phone plans

  • Cook at home

  • Ask about student discounts

  • Always pay bills on time to avoid late fees

  • Sell what you no longer use or need

  • Drop any subscriptions you’re paying for now that you can do without

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Which decisions will help you budget for college?

Take Action

If you haven’t developed money-saving habits yet, start sooner rather than later!

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This Byte has been authored by


Xinyue Zuo

Instructional Designer